Monday, August 16, 2010

Movie Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Let's get this out of the way first. I don't care for hipsters. They tend to be people who like something because it's trendy and then say that they themselves are trend-setters... or they take nostalgia to an obnoxious extreme. (Like those stupid Nintendo themed shirts from Hot Topic.) They move from one cool thing to the next, turning everything good and fun into something overexposed and boring. For example, Napoleon Dynamite or Tim Burton films.

What does that have to do with this movie? Well, Scott Pilgrim is one of those films destined to be a hipster film, and yet at the same time it sort of thumbs it's nose at hipsters at the same time. I mean, the movie even begins with an 8-bit version of the Universal logo complete with MIDI music. It makes one feel warm and fuzzy if you're 25, but I doubt anyone younger than 15 would get it. The movie also has Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) in an indie/punk band, dating a 17 yr old Chinese girl, sleeping (literally) with his gay roommate, and espousing the history of Pac-Man. What could be more hipster than that?! (A keytar maybe?)

I suppose a plot is justified, yes? Scott Pilgrim is 22 years old and lives in a studio apartment with his gay roommate (Kieran Culkin), sometimes sleeping beside both him and the roommate's man of the night. He's dating an Asian high school girl (Catholic, complete with uniform) and playing in his indie-punk band, Sex Bob-omb when a new girl, Ramona (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), an deliverygirl enters his life. Since Scott is something of an asshole, he tries to date both girls at the same time. Oh yeah, he's also got to face off against Ramona's ex-boyfriends who come at him in levels like in video games, and have even named themselves "The League of Exes." That's the crux of it anyway.

I originally wanted to see the movie just to watch Michael Cera get the crap beaten out of him, but was surprised out how much I liked the movie. I shouldn't have been as it's directed by Edgar Wright, who did both Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz. This movie has the same interesting style of those two films, but I'd equate it more with the TV show that Wright did, Spaced. The pop culture references, the interesting editing style... The outlandish plots... It's all here in Scott Pilgrim too. For those of you who liked Zombieland with it's rules appearing on-screen during the film, well, this movie does the same type thing but better. Since the whole movie is filmed like a video game, you have RPG elements like a "Pee Bar" and combo attacks. I won't give away anymore about such things, because it's half of what makes the movie funny.

The movie is consistently funny, though it's not for everyone most likely. Since the film is based on nostalgia and pop culture references, it's probably purely for the late teen to thirties crowd. You know, the ones that were alive when Super Nintendo bit the dust, but young enough that there were always video games consoles. The movie has been called by some as a gamers' movie, and it is in some ways. It's a niche film with possible mass appeal though, like Napoleon Dynamite, but less annoying. It's potentially quotable, it's nerdy (which is hip now), it's based on a series of comics (and that's "in" now), and it's PG-13, which means this could be considered a classic in ten years by those who are 13 now. (Do we really want that though?)

I'm kind of worried that this is one of those comedies that only works after the first time if you're showing it to someone who hasn't seen it yet. That's not knocking the movie I suppose, as most comedies are stale after one viewing, though there are a few exceptions. I very much recommend seeing that one time though, if that's all you see it. It won't be in theaters long, as it's pretty much tanked it's opening weekend. Expect it to have strong DVD/Blu-Ray sales in a few months though, after the word of mouth gets around.

4 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Trent's Top 50 albums #35-26

35. Avantasia - The Metal Opera (2001/2002)
34. The Beatles - Let It Be (1970)
33. Muse - Origin of Symmetry (2001)
32. Opeth - Damnation (2003)
31. Queen - A Day At The Races (1976)
30 - Helloween - Keeper of The Seven Keys (1987/1988)
29. Deep Purple - In Rock (1970)
28. Rush - 2112 (1976)
27. Smashing Pumpkins - Siamese Dream (1993)
26. Iron Maiden - Piece of Mind (1983)

Also, I have posted a review of the Iron Maiden concert I attended last week, so take a look.

Monday, July 12, 2010

I Killed Adolf Hitler review

This was the book that brought me back to comic books. It was one of my first visits to a real comic book shop, and I was dead set against getting something that was completely left of center. My interest in Star Wars was too safe, and I didn’t feel up to the financial requirements of reading The Sandman just yet. So, there it was, on the independents shelf: I Killed Adolf Hitler, featuring anthropomorphic characters, and an author who didn’t have a last name. Just Jason. So thirteen dollars later, I was the owner of forty-eight pages of stand alone comics. After reading, I didn’t have anything negative that I could possibly say, other than, perhaps, that it was too short.

Despite having no names, the characters are phenomenally animated. The hero is an assassin for hire in a world where that profession is perfectly acceptable, and not against the law. In the opening scene, he breaks up with his girlfriend, and quickly appears disillusioned by the line of work he is in. So, in walks a scientist who assigns him a hit, and tells him that he will be traveling through time to kill Adolf Hitler. After this doesn’t work out, he works with his ex to track down Hitler in the modern era. This sets up a poignant love story more than anything else, and quick witted to it’s finale. The tone of the book seems to be inspired greatly by the films of Woody Allen. The dialogue is sharp, and the action takes a back seat to the character development.

Jason is yet another great writer who also draws his own books. His art style is very simple, colors minimalistic. There isn’t anything that takes the attention away from the tale being told, but it’s not offensive to the eye either. The sci-fi element of time travel is simply handled as well, with a giant metal bubble being the only time travel device necessary. However, this doesn’t mean that it isn’t plot important through to the ending. As a matter a fact, this plot device provides the sweet ending that makes me constantly recommend this book to readers new to the medium.

Despite a simplistic cartoon appearance, don’t go into this book expecting a young readers experience. The first scene alone depicts the hero’s girlfriend graphically describing masturbation while he shoots and kills someone from her window. This isn’t the only moment of graphic violence either, as there are several moments where another assassin is performing a hit while the hero talks to other characters. This is more a warning than anything else, as it doesn’t take the spotlight away from the fantastic character development and storytelling.

This was my first experience with independent comics. My first graphic novel from the Norwegian artist and writer Jason. This was my indoctrination into the fan base associated with comics, though I’m not one of “those” comic book fans. Give this one a try, and I’m certain you will come back for more shortly after.


So, my schedule has been thwarted by work, finances, and school over the past two weeks. I'll be playing catch up with weekly comics at the end of the week, and I'm currently working on reviews of We3 by Grant Morrison and Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli. I've also been invited to write reviews for , where I will be crossposting my reviews to. I'm still a contributor to The Galactic Outpost as well. Stay tuned, folks.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trent's Top 50 albums #50-46

I've started my list of my top 50 favorite albums on my site, complete with little reasons why and a list of my 3 favorite tracks from every album. Here's just the list so far, in case you can't be bothered to know WHY I consider these favorites. Also note, these are favorite albums, as in the ones I listen to most, not what I know are the best ones. 'Best' lists are, in my opinion, pretty rigid and boring.

#50. Images and Words - Dream Theater (1992)
#49. The Grand Illusion - Styx (1977)
#48. Destiny - Stratovarius (1998)
#47. Argus - Wishbone Ash (1972)
#46. Van Halen II - Van Halen (1979)
#45. The Nylon Curtain - Billy Joel (1982)
#44. Holy Diver - Dio (1983)
#43. Peace Sells... But Who's Buying - Megadeth (1986)
#42. Imaginations From The Other Side - Blind Guardian (1995)
#41. The Turn of A Friendly Card - The Alan Parsons Project (1980)
#40. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road - Elton John (1973)
#39. Heaven and Hell - Black Sabbath (1980)
#38. Somewhere Out In Space - Gamma Ray (1997)
#37. Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy (1976)
#36. Van Halen - Van Halen (1978)

The fully detailed list can be found here.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Top 50 lists coming soon!

Hello all, I promised an outline of how things will be done on my personal blog, and well… here it is. Hopefully this will make the blog easier to navigate, and the updates more constant. (I will try to make both this blog and my personal one look cooler also.) It’s all about keeping me motivated, after all. Well, maybe not, but I like to think so.

At any rate, here’s the plan for the next few months.

July will focus on my top 50 favorite rock/metal albums of all time. I’m really excited to finally compile this list, which I’ve been thinking of doing for the past 2 or 3 years. Obviously my musical tastes have expanded since then. Why rock albums? That’s what I listen to. In reality therefore, it’s my 50 favorite OVERALL albums, but if I didn’t specify the genre, it just wouldn’t seem fair to, say Gustav Holst or Miles Davis now would it?

August and September will be dedicated towards compiling my 50 favorite films. I’ll be attempting to post one a day at that point, with reasons why it’s one of my favorites. After those 50 days we have like 10 left, and I’m still kind of thinking about what to do there… Possibly I’ll work in some leg-room so that I can have ten days during those two months where I don’t have to post.

Now, in regards to the Outpost Hub, and how that figures in with these specials… I’ll probably post an update every ten installments on there, and it will include just the list. There won’t be any comments from me on them. I’ll leave those to my personal blog, as it’s easy to access it from the Hub.

Along with these special top 50 lists, I’ll still be posting book/film/album/concert reviews, special comments on media topics, links to upcoming short stories that I do, etc. So all in all, this is gonna be one busy blog in the coming months. I’m very much looking forward to this, so stay tuned. I hope you like it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Jurassic Park: Memories 17 Years In The Making

I've been going through some kind of crazy 1/3-life crisis lately. It's lasted about a year now, and there's really no end in sight. I turn 25 tomorrow. Halfway to 50, when my body will really start to shut down, if my parents are any indication. As this crisis goes through, I tend to look back a lot, mostly in shock. Fifteen years since Toy Story?! Thirteen years since I saw the original Star Wars trilogy re-released in theaters?! Seventeen years since I saw my first PG-13 movie in theaters?!

Yes folks, Jurassic Park is seventeen years old now. Can you believe it? I was 8 when I saw the movie, having just had my birthday. I remember looking so much to seeing this movie that I knew next to nothing about. I was just really into dinosaurs at the time. My dad had read the book earlier that year. He was reading it while the family went down to South Carolina to see my grandma, and I would ask him every few minutes what was happening in the book, to his annoyance. I got some TOPPS Jurassic Park trading cards that summer, and a cassette tape full of songs just about dinosaurs. At first my parents said I couldn't see the movie. I was only 8, and at that time, my parents wouldn't even let me watch Ninja Turtles on Saturday mornings. I was pretty sheltered. Yet after my dad saw the movie, he decided that I could see it for my birthday. I can remember that theater experience to this day.

I had never seen such a reaction to a movie. People jumped, some screamed, and a lot of kids (including me) were hiding their eyes in their parents arm a lot of the time. The part that always scared me most was oddly supposed to be comic relief. The Dilophosaurus still kinda freaks me out a little to this day... and the real dinosaur didn't even have what freaks me out about it... Those neck frills and the oil-like poison. Still, those dinosaurs looked damned real, and the movie is still an adrenaline rush.

Now, I've heard a lot of comments in the last few years about Jurassic Park being a lesser film. What is it with this decade and people loving to trash everything that is deemed "nostalgic"? Sure, the movie didn't age well in some respects. "Oh wow! It's an interactive CD-ROM!" The dress style in the movies is also dated to the early 90s. I don't care. It was made in the early 90s and is set there. Case closed. (Although no amount of critical thinking can make me approve of the goofy sound when Nedry slips and falls down the flash-flooded embankment.)

Looking back, I don't think I ever saw the trailer for the movie. I have a feeling that if I did, I would have been kind of disappointed. If you haven't seen it, look here.

It basically is the movie in 3 minutes! And it looks horrible! If you noticed, they only show the animatronic dino shots, and not the CGI ones. That's a good choice, but the trailer gets the feel of the movie all wrong. I guess the movie must have gone all on hype, because I can't see the trailer getting people drawn in. Now the poster on the other hand... come on... it's just classic.

Let me speak of the special effects for a minute. I'm not amazed by CGI a lot these days, but Jurassic Park was one of the first films to use it extensively, and to this 8 year old, those dinosaurs were real. (So real that I kept looking down over the side of my bunk bed that night thinking the dilophosaurus was down there.) Even just viewing it again a few days ago those dinos look real in most shots. The only times where I can very easily tell the CGI are some shots of the kitchen Velociraptors, and the Gallimimus flock. The T-Rex always looks real, and especially in what is one of my favorite scenes. Ellie and Muldoon have found Malcolm and are now searching for Grant and the kids. All of a sudden the Rex bursts from the woods and chases the Jeep they are in. I don't think the T-Rex was as frightening in the other two films. The attack on the Jeep is nerve-wracking to me still. It may have been a robot, but the plexi-glass top of the jeep all of a sudden coming down on those kids... it's pretty chilling. (And let's not forget the humorous but gruesome death of Genaro either. Yet another classic.)

Now, when I was about 14, I finally read the book, and was very surprised at how different it was to the movie. Whole sequences with the dinosaurs were taken out, such as the aviary, the river boat sequence, hiding behind the waterfall from the T-rex... (all of which would appear in some form or another in the 2 lesser sequels) Heck, even the characters were different, especially John Hammond! In the book, John Hammond is more of an exploiter. He can get cranky too. He's not Walt Disney with a dash of Santa Claus like he is in the movie. The movie's main low point, according to critics, was the lack of character development, and all I have to say to that is it was a hell of a lot better than the book's. Now listen up folks, for I have a theory. Read a good book and then see the movie, and you will always be at least slightly disappointed. See a good movie, then read the book, and most likely you will still enjoy the movie, and you'll have enjoyed the book as well. This is Trent's theory of post-literary adaptation. Take of it what you will.

In my point of view, the movie holds up fantastically well. It's still suspenseful, the effects are amazing to this day, the music is some of John Williams' best, and it's miles better than either of the sequels. I seriously recommend that if you have not seen the movie in a while, to sit down, "turn the light off!", and put on the surround sound ("Don't get cheap on me"), and "Hold on to your butts!"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shadows of the Empire-- A WEEK LONG REVIEW!

When I was in fifth grade, there wasn’t anything in this world better than Star Wars. I read novels, played the video games, watched the movies endlessly, had lightsaber fights with my friends, action figures, quite literally I was into everything Star Wars. Then, in a dingy little gas station less than a mile from my house, my best friend found a comic book. I didn’t care about comic books, but this was special.

It was a Star Wars comic. And it was the first issue of Shadows of the Empire.

A week later I convinced my grandmother to take me up there to get it. I pad in change, taking the precious little paper book home with me, and read it at least six times that week. This was the first, and still one of my favorite comics. I’m not sure if it’s just nostalgia coming into play, but I still consider Shadows of the Empire something special. It is follow up to my favorite of the Star Wars films, Empire Strikes Back, taking place almost immediately after the film cuts to credits. It’s part of the reason I love cover art and poster art.

So, I’m going to review it.

But not just the comic! Shadows of the Empire was a multi-media event when it was started in 1996. The concept behind it was to create everything for a movie, except for the movie. And that’s what they accomplished, with a novel, comic book series, soundtrack, video game, and a line of action figures. There is even a couple of source books dedicated to this one moment in time for the Star Wars D20 Modern RPG. But, I’m just going to review the concrete stuff. I’ll be starting off with a review of the novel by Steve Perry. On Tuesday, I’ll review the video game. Wednesday will be a standard review day for weekly books. Thursday, I’ll review the soundtrack, and finally on Friday, a review of the comic book series that brought me back to comics in 2008.

All of the reviews are at Inside the Panels. Click the links for the individual reviews below.  

The Novel

The Game

The Soundtrack

The Comic

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekly Graphic Novel Review: Fallen Angel Vol. 1--To Serve in Heaven

Fallen Angel Vol. 1--To Serve in Heaven
Writer--Peter David
Artist--J.K. Woodward


So, let's get the obvious out of the way: this book is beautiful. The above image isn't even one of the best examples, and it sold me on Woodward's visuals. The world of Bette Noir is brought to life with surreal hand painted panels, in a deep color palette that sets the tone before you've read the first bit of text. Even as the scene shifts between the present day, and the back story of Liandra, the titular fallen, you will continue to be amazed by what has been done on the page. Some of the books finest moments are foundation shots of the streets of Bette Noir. I know this is going to sound like a pun, and for that I apologize, but it screams of film noir. But of course, this all means very little if the story isn't engaging.

Well, you are lucky. Peter David has taken great care in his writing, and rebooted his DC comic of the same title for IDW, allowing new readers to not be completely lost in the dark, and serve the previous story's fans. While I can't comment on the continuity between these two series, I'm just going to say that I wasn't lost when I read it, so most readers will probably not have any trouble jumping right in. If nothing else, there is a decent chance they are going to hunt down the DC books (which are soon to be reprinted in omnibus form by IDW).

The story is about Liandra, or Lee. By day, she is a college physical education teacher, and by night, defends the city of Bette Noire from the evil of the Heirarchy as their will is done by the Magistrate, Doctor Juris. Quickly, this becomes more complicated, as Juris attempts to pass on his position to his son, Jubal. This sets an origin story for Lee, how she fell from being a guardian angel, refusing the concept of free will. The origin story is told through several flashbacks, and David really builds the flashbacks into play naturally, slowly revealing the complexities of Liandra's current character.

Lee is easily one of the most interesting 'superhero' type characters I've read. Her powers are vast, but understated in favor or telling a story. We see her shoot lasers from her eyes a couple of times, but it never takes the center screen in favor of building on her relationships with the different people in the city. The Magistrate, Juris, is a selfish man, seeking his true first born sun, who would take his charge away from him forever. Then there is Xia, who comes across quickly as an agitated person by character. Xia, Juris, and Jubal have an interesting chemistry to their arrangement. Juris doesn't want. However, to a point, I didn't find myself wanting them there either. But, David still had their spot in the story, and I agree with it to a point. If he was just trying to get us to be annoyed by Juris and his thoughts and actions, then he suceeded with flying colors. Still, Lee is the main character, and who we spend the most time with as readers. She had a deep and interesting back story.

As a person of religious faith, I feel I should comment on David's statements about faith, religion, and God Himself. No, I'm not offended. Lee is a rebellious person in the eyes of The Boss, but it's not written in such a way as to say "Go burn down a church, Johnny" like some other works of fiction that are critical of organized religion. Instead, it's an alternative view of the nature of our existence, and it's intriguing. It's a bit frightening even, as it almost seems like a valid viewpoint. In short, I appreciate David's handling of the content. It's got the markings of a target for controversy, but it's not a blatant cross inverting, pentagram drawing, number of the beast screaming work of fiction that so many other writers allow their religious criticisms to be.

The book I read for my review is a paperback print of the first story arc. As I mentioned before, it's a lovely cover, depiticting Liandra in a haunting view of Bette Noir. It does little to speak for what's inside, and doesn't really show the city itself for what it is. The inclusion of the different cover arts was nice, as many trades don't tend to do this like they should. Also, there is a step by step walkthrough of J.K. Woodward's process for drawing and painting the book. Not necessary to the story, but a worthwhile addition nonetheless.

Whether you should start with the DC books or not is completely up to you. I read this trade with little trouble, so it won't hinder your experience. I feel like this book is solid enough to warrant a recommendation. The story is interesting, and at times stellar. The art is definitely the books high point. Check it out.


Coming up next week, I've got the surprise review coming out, as well as reviews of Air, Joe the Barbarian, Amory Wars, and the next issue in Dark Horse's Predators mini-series.

This review is also posted on my page, Inside the Panels. You can check out reviews of comics I've read in the past two weeks, as well as a review of Warren Ellis' sci-fi graphic novel, Orbiter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Michael Crichton's State of Fear

Anyone remember the good old days when everyone thought global warming was real? Wait, they still do? Well, after this past year's scandal in regards to supposed fact fudging on the part of global warming studies, the number of people who believed in the phenomena went down quite a bit. (Let's face it, they were looking for any excuse.) One person who never really believed in the global warming hoopla was Michael Crichton, the writer of such pseudo-scientific books as Jurassic Park, The Andromeda Strain, and Sphere.

The book is about the evil, dreaded environmentalist, and how they are only there to take your money and commit acts of terrorism in the name of trees. (Or icebergs or volcanoes, or whatever is around them at the time.) No, I am not kidding. We should hear Crichton out though. In this critic's opinion, he got it right for the most part. Modern day environmentalist groups fall into two categories... terrorists like ELF or bureaucratic machines whose main goal is to make money. How do they do this? Well by making us afraid. Turn on the news and it's a rare day when you don't hear about some environmental disaster. Crichton's view is that society is kept in check by the politicians, media, and corporations working together to keep us afraid. I personally don't see how this could be accurately disputed.

My problem with the book is how Crichton makes the whole environmentalist movement look liked Snidely Whiplash. They create disasters, they kill people, and even use complex Bond villainesque ways of doing these things. It's pretty preposterous even for Michael Crichton. Seriously, I thought at times that I was reading a novelization of a Roland Emmerich film! The characters were bland as hell, there was a lot of traveling, lots of imminent disasters, and I'm pretty sure Randy Quaid is being abducted by aliens in there somewhere.

All in all, I guess the book was okay if you don't mind being preached too. I already pretty much agreed with Crichton here, but if I didn't, I can tell you I'd probably have disliked the book. It does get rather "out there" towards the end, but then again, so do over half of Crichton's other books. I can at least say I enjoyed it better than his previous book, Prey.